Well, after years of being away from home and traveling all over the world, I've finally decided to take the step into the world of blogging. As most of you know, I will be spending the next four and a half months teaching English in Nepal. And, as I remain a bit unsure about the communication outlets I will have at my disposal, or frequency at which I will be able to access them, I figured this was the quickest and easiest way to get in touch with those who wish to follow my time there. So here you go. As I said, I really don't know how frequently or thoroughly I will be able to update this but hopefully I can provide at least some small anecdotes regularly enough to provide you all will some sort of insight to my time in Nepal. Enjoy :)
Friday, February 25, 2011
Namaste! This week has been pretty full on. It began with the arrival of Stevie the Stomachbug. I was the lucky first stop on his village tour. It was not a pleasant stay, at least on my end. It seems like he was having a grand old time. Luckily, for me, he only stuck around for a couple days. But, unfortunately for the other volunteers, his friends quickly took up residence in them. It has now made a complete circulation of our house and, knock on wood, we think the party is now over, with five westerners now recovering strongly. This week at school has been pretty hectic with students preparing for final exams. You can feel the end-of-school excitement in the air and the kids are definitely getting a bit crazy (more so than usual). But, it seems that in class more and more students are beginning to buckle down and work hard. Wow, tests are coming up soon, maybe I should pay attention and learn something. Haha. And, apparently, my time at a Nepalese school would not be complete without some bloodshed. Earlier this week one of my favorite little 3rd graders, Assis, (it's always the cute ones!) was sitting quietly at his desk when one of the other boys in class decided to whack him across the face with his backpack. Luckily it wasn't anything to hard or heavy, but the zipper caught Assis on the forehead and, as foreheads do, began to bleed quite profusely. And, as I'm becoming quite the pro with this whole blood thing, my hand was quickly there applying pressure and helping him out to the teacher's lounge. Two male teachers who were on break at the time (wait! teachers sitting around doing nothing at a Nepalese school!?!? No! Say it ain't so! haha), they got out the first aid kit (which clearly hadn't been used or restocked since the 70s) and began fumbling through it trying to find something I could use. They were able to find little bits of cotton, which were completely soaked with poor Assis' blood by the time they could find the next one. But, as it was a pretty small cut, I got it under control soon enough and had him cleaned up with a band-aid slapped on and back in class before the other teachers could figure out what some of the things in the kit were (it was as if they had never seen one before and were quite fascinated by some of it's contents. Assis was quite the trooper. And I spent the rest of the period trying to wash the blood out of his tiny little school shirt and then drying it in the sun because the wet shirt was, as he quite firmly told me, "chiso cha!" (too cold!) So ya, it's been a full week, but definitely always bringing more excitement. Oh, and a quick plug before I rush off...If you read just one book this year, make it SOLD by Patricia McCormick. It is a quick read but such an amazingly beautiful story. She is dead on with her descriptions of people and places. It will give you an excellent idea of what the area of the world I'm living in is like and some of the sadness these people see in their lives. I could not recommend a book more.
Saturday, February 19, 2011
So, the Bryan Adams concert was absolutely amazing. I would honestly see him again (even at western prices). But what made the experience even more incredible was this...I had no idea what a big deal this concert was to Nepal. And not just that the people here totally love him, which they do...it was a big deal on a larger scale. This was the first concert of a western artist in Nepal...EVER. This country has never had any act from outside the eastern world (i.e. there have been a few shows from Nepali, Indian, and Japanese groups, but that's it). So this was a massive moment in Nepali cultural history. And I got to be a part of it. The whole feeling of the crowd and the energy that he brought to the stage was so powerful. Deffinitely "a night to remember...January, to December"
Friday, February 18, 2011
Namaste from Kathmandu...I am back for a quick visit to this wonderful city that, I have recently realized, I really love. The three other volunteers in the village and myself took the long and bumpy bus ride up for a weekend in the city for a few reasons. Firstly, most of us need to visit the immigration office (of which there isn't one in the lower half of the country) in order to extend our visas. Mine expires next week (I still can't believe I've been here nearly three months!) Secondly, and frankly the more important reason for our visit, haha, is to see Bryan Adams Live in Nepal! Yes, Bryan Adams (of "Summer of '69" fame) is playing one concert in Nepal before he heads back to the States and, through our Nepali contacts, we were able to get tickets. I probably wouldn't even go if it was back home, but to see an act like that, in the middle of a country like this, and for that price (i.e. CHEAP!), how could you pass it up? And thirdly, I think we all just needed a good break. I know that just after this past week, I definitely needed to get away for a bit. It began with Valentine's Day, and while the holiday is not really celebrated here, most kids were well aware of the western tradition and there just seemed to be something in the air that day that just had everyone at the school running amuck. To add to this, multiple events this week added to my frustration and, to be honest, growing disgust, with the Nepali education system. Corporal Punishment is still alive and rampant, with teachers (and even some students) now encouraging us to "beat" students that misbehave. And, as many times as I've seen a child hit with a stick or slapped across the face, I still cringe every time. Then, on Wednesday, the school principal was in our year 8 class to explain their upcoming exam to the students (what sections will cover what topics [grammar, spelling, etc.] and how many points each portion will be worth). The written English exam is worth 70 points and the Listening and Speaking portion is worth 30 points...although, it doesn't matter how they do on this second portion as it doesn't count into whether they pass or not (excuse me!?! It doesn't matter if a student can actually understand and speak English in an English exam?!?) No, all that matters is the written portion, worth 70 points. They need 22 points to pass. 22! Out of 70! For those of you playing at home, that's about 31% Are you freaking kidding me??? No wonder you have kids in year 8 and 9 that don't understand the language. And the principal told us that 75% of the students will NOT pass. (Now what does this tell you about your teaching, sir?) Then, after he had written all the exam sections on the board and how many points they were each worth, he asked the students how many points they felt they could get on each portion. Huh? The first part they guessed maybe half (4/8). On the second section, he didn't even wait for their answer. He wrote a big fat zero next to it and said aloud "they will not get any on this section" (What?!? Nice positive encouragement for your students there, sir!) By this point I was fuming and I'm sure it showed on my face. He turned and asked me what I thought. I said flat out "No! No 4, no 0. They should be trying for..." at which point I went down the list stating the highest possible points for each section. How do you encourage your pupils to try for only 50%, or, worse, 0%! On top of it all, we've spent the week taking other teachers' classes because they find it more important to sit outside in the schoolyard, reading the newspaper or talking with other teachers. I guess, on the plus side, we know that when we're in a class rather than their actual teacher, at least those students won't be getting a beating. But yes, it was a long, emotionally and mentally exhausting week. A break was definitely needed. Oh! And I didn't even mention the extremely drunk old man who stumbled into our year 5 class and started passing out candy to the kids! Well, that is a story for another time. Right now, I'm off to Bryan Adams..."Got my first real six string, bought it at the five and dime..."
Friday, February 4, 2011
Hello all from the lovely city of Narayangarh...and by "lovely city" I mean congested, single road town that serves as the bus hub for all traffic in and out of Chitwan. But it has a few stores and as our home has been out of toilet paper for three days now, necessity called for a trip into town. And so here I am. The past week has been pretty routine with teaching and daily life. There was one tragic passsing...Bessy, my beloved mode of transport each morning suffered a blow to the tire and has now been put out to pasture. And so I have begun a new journey...with Bertha. And quite frankly, it's just not the same. She is smaller, and therefore more difficult to ride. And does not take direction well, sending me into a rocky revine on one occassion. And if you think a grown woman standing in the middle of the road yelling at a bike sounds a bit strange, just imagine what all the locals working out in thier fields must have thought. But other than that, things continue to go quite well and each day I see new growth in my students which gives me further encouragement. There is one little boy in the village who, when I arrived, could not speak a word of English, and would constantly speak to me in Nepali as if I understood everything he was saying. But now, after talking with me and a few of the other volunteers for the past few weeks, he is slowly begining to learn the language. The other day, passing his house, and hearing him say "Hello Megan, how are you?" was like music to my ears. Definite growth! My cultural experience for the week came in the form of Puja, a Hindu ceremony marking the anniversary of a relative's death. A year ago, the father of the family that I am staying with passed away and, since then, the family has been in a period of what we would call mourning. The family was "juto" or contaminated in a sense. There were things they were not allowed to do or eat due to this for the whole year. But, in the Puja, a priest comes, offerings are made to the many gods, and the family is clensed of juto. It was definitely an interesting ceremony, long (i.e. 6 and a half hours in the scorching sun), but interesting. Over 200 people visited throughout the day, coming and going as the ceremony was taking place, and they all took part in the massive amounts of food served up by the family and their volunteers (i.e. we were the wierd white people carrying food...lots of strange looks from little old ladies). And when the ceremony was over, the dancing began. Drumming and dancing and singing. We were told that it would go on all night and the tradition is to dance until sunrise. Being quite tired by about 9pm, and having to teach early the next morning, the volunteers all left. And, I must admit, I assumed "we will dance all night" was a bit of an exageration. But sure enough, when I woke up at 3am, I could hear the drums still banging away on the other side of the village. They definitely know how to keep a party going here. And now a new week begins. I've been told we might have another public holiday this week...this is the land of public holidays...but we usually don't know until the kids at school tell us "no school tomorrow!" when we try to give homework. But for now, I am off to get the oh so needed toilet paper. Namaste :)